British Columbia’s top court has thrown out a challenge of former premier John Horgan’s 2020 snap election call.
The B.C. Court of Appeal released its decision Tuesday, finding the NDP’s move to call the provincial election one year ahead of B.C.’s fixed election date didn’t violate the B.C. Constitution Act.
B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan calls snap election for Oct. 24
Non-partisan group Democracy Watch had challenged the early election at the B.C. Supreme Court but lost, before taking its challenge to the appellate court.
In their ruling, the three-justice panel unanimously agreed that the province’s Constitution Act does not impose any limits on the power of the B.C.’s lieutenant governor to dissolve the legislature, or on the premier to recommend the legislature be dissolved.
The province’s election law, they wrote, confirms that an election must be held on fixed dates every four years rather than the maximum of five under Canada’s Charger of Rights and Freedoms — but that the date is subject to the lieutenant governor’s prerogative to dissolve the legislature at an earlier date.
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“In essence, (the law) establishes a presumptive, but not absolute, election date,” the ruling states.
The court of appeal further ruled that both the lieutenant governor’s power to dissolve the legislature and the premier’s power recommend the dissolution are not subject to court challenge.
Horgan called the early election in September, 2020, at a time when the NDP was governing with a razor-thin majority through the support of a confidence and supply agreement with the BC Green Party.
At the time, he argued that with the province in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, an election was needed to eliminate any “uncertainty and instability” in the ensuing year leading up to the fixed election date.
The BC NDP went on to win a commanding majority, capturing 57 of the 87 seats in B.C.’s legislature.
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